Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Gratitude to Alexandria Goddard and Jane Doe

There are two women I am feeling particularly grateful to right now: Alexandria Goddard and Jane Doe.

Last week, my social networking feeds and news feeds were all lit up with, first, news of the sentencing in the Steubenville, OH rape cases, and then, with reactions: to the sentencing, to the news coverage of it, and to rape culture overall. 

Countless women, male allies, and genderqueer people reared up and thundered: We have had enough of rape culture.  We have had enough of rape apology.  We are not standing any more for cultural narratives that normalize or explain away this kind of violence. 

It was the first time in my life that I had ever been surrounded by that much no-holds-barred, unapologetic, outrage and advocacy.

I have been active in feminist causes and anti-violence work for almost 30 years now.  There are plenty of times before now when I have been surrounded by amazing, loud, unapologetic feminist women and allies.

But never in my life until last week was I ever surrounded by such a huge, huge swell of us -- and such a mainstream swell of us. 

There are two women I am particularly grateful to for making this open, vocal outrage and advocacy work possible.

One is Alexandria Goddard, the blogger and former Steubenville resident who worked so persistently to bring the perpetrators to the awareness of both the public and law enforcement.  Goddard didn't give up even when her own personal life was affected and when she received death threats and was sued.  Goddard's work has very much helped shape the cultural discussion of this case. 

You can read Goddard's story here:

The other is Jane Doe, the victim and survivor of the rapes this case is all about.  Her persistence, courage, and integrity were instrumental in moving the cases forward, securing convictions, and in shaping the cultural discussion.

Thank you both.  I am grateful. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Reprint from Ask Moxie: A Letter To My Sons About Stopping Rape

A Letter To My Sons About Stopping Rape

Dear Boys,

Some really horrible things happened to someone who could be one of your friends, and it was done by some people who could be your friends. You're 11 and almost-8 now, so the incident that made me write this letter isn't something you've heard about, but this stuff keeps happening, unfortunately. So I need to talk to you about it.

First of all, I know we talk all the time about how special your bodies are, and how you’re one who gets to decide what to do with your body. I’ve never made you put anything in your mouth that you didn’t want to, or touch anyone you didn’t want to, or talk to anyone you didn’t want to, because I wanted you to understand that you and you alone control your boundaries. We worked on blowing a kiss so you could show that you liked someone without having to touch them, and high fives if you were ok touching them but only with your hand. We talked all the time about not letting people tell you that what you wanted was wrong or that they knew better, and that you should always always tell your dad or grandma or me if anyone makes you feel uncomfortable.

And we talk all the time about making sure that if you’re touching someone else that they want you to be touching them. That if they say “No” you have to stop right away (even if it’s just fake-punching your brother) and that even if they aren’t saying “No” you need to make sure they’re still enjoying it. You know how sometimes you like to be tickled and sometimes you don’t? Well, everyone’s like that, so even if they liked it when you did it yesterday, you should still make sure they really want you to today, whatever kind of touching it is.

Now I’m going to talk about sex. I know you know “how it works” because we’ve been talking about it ever since you two were little, since before you could read, and you know all about sperm and eggs and penises and vaginas and vulvas and orgasms and condoms and all that. And I know I told you it feels good and you had a hard time seeing how that could be true but took my word for it. Well, the thing I didn’t tell you is that it feels unbelievably amazing when you’re doing it with someone who really wants to be doing it with you. Like , better than popcorn followed by ice cream, or a Supah Ninjas marathon, or two snow days in a row. You know how excited I get when I get a new pair of shoes? It’s like 500 times better than that, when the person you’re doing it with is so excited to be doing it with you that they start asking you for it.

This is what I want you to wait for. I want you to wait to have sex until the person you’re with asks you for it. Tells you they need you now, and that they can’t wait, and they want it. Calls you by your name and asks for it.

If you’re ever in a situation in which someone is asking you for it and you don’t want to have sex with that person, don’t do it. And if you’re ever in a situation in which you want to have sex but the other person doesn’t ask you for it, don’t do it. It’s only good if you both want it, and can tell each other you want it, and are sure you both want it. Otherwise someone’s going to get hurt. And romance is weird enough without hurting other people when you can stop yourself (and you can always stop yourself -- that goes along with having opposable thumbs).

This letter is almost over but this next part is super-important: Not everyone you know has been taught all the stuff we’ve talked about. You are going to know people, and maybe even be friends with people, who think it’s ok to hurt other people in a lot of ways. One of those ways is sex. I know you’re going to hear other boys say things about girls, or sometimes about other boys, that means they don’t care about those girls’ feelings or bodies. When you do, I need you to step in. All you have to do is say something like, “Dude, that’s not cool” or something that lets the person saying something nasty know that it’s not ok. Remember that everyone wants to fit in. If you can take control of the mood in the room by letting them know nasty talk isn’t ok, they’ll stop so they don’t look like an idiot.

Remember how we talk all the time about how we’re the people who help, who fix things when there’s a problem or someone’s in trouble? You may get the chance to do that someday. Because those boys who say nasty things about girls may actually do something to those girls. If you are ever anywhere where boys start hurting a girl, or touching her in any way that she doesn’t want, you need to step in. If she’s asleep or drunk or passed out or drugged and can’t say “no,” you need to step in. Remember, it’s not good unless both people can say they want it. If a girl isn’t saying anything, that doesn’t mean she wants it. If she isn’t saying specifically that she wants it, then it’s wrong.

Here’s how you should step in:

  1. If it’s safe for you to say something, say something. In a loud, commanding voice, tell the guy who’s doing it to stop, and make sure he knows it’s not ok and he can’t be an asshole (sorry to curse, but by the time you’re in this situation you’ll be cursing, too). Then help the girl get to someplace safe, and call her parents. (Even if she thinks she’s going to get in trouble, call her parents. If they’re mad at her, I can talk to them and take care of it.)
  2. If it’s not safe for you to say something, leave the room quietly and calmly and call me. I do not care if you’re someplace you’re not supposed to be, or not the place you told me you were, or in Canada or someplace that would normally get you in a lot of trouble. You get immunity if you’re calling for help. My phone is always on, and it does not matter what time of day or night it is. If I don’t pick up right away, call your dad, and the same immunity rules apply. Call one of us and give us the address of where you are and we will come help. Then hang up and call 911. Tell them the address and that there’s an assault going on. They might want you to stay on the line with them until the police get there.
  3. Even if you don't like the girl, step in. Even if she's been mean to you or snobby, or someone told you she did something you think is gross. No matter what she did, no one should hurt her. If you step in, the next day you can go back to hating her. If you don't step in, well, how are you any different from the loser who's hurting her? You know who you are. Step in.
  4. Do not worry that everyone will hate you if you stop the cool kids from doing something. Stopping someone from hurting another person makes you a hero. This is what you’re here to do. And if there are people who don’t like it, screw them. Your dad and I will do anything it takes to make sure that anyone who doesn’t like your being a hero stays away from you and keeps their mouths shut.

We have been practicing for this for a long time, for being the ones who help.

Remember when we were in the middle of the knife fight on the subway and we got the other mom and kid out of the way? Remember when we helped my friend move away from her scary husband? Remember all those times we took pictures of those freaky dudes staring at the little kids at the playground? We’ve been practicing to step in and help someone else. You can do it. I have faith in you.



Magda Pecsenye
reprinted with permission


Thank you, Magda. - sm

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

An Epistle from Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns, Midwinter Gathering 2013

An Epistle from Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns, Midwinter Gathering 2013

To All Friends Everywhere,

We send you love and best wishes from Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Concerns Midwinter Gathering, held from February 15-18th, 2013, at the Bryn Mawr Mountain Retreat and Conference Center in Honesdale, Pennsylvania.

We unpacked the theme – A Place at the Table – in a series of plenary sessions under the skillful facilitation of Niyonu Spann. This theme proved to be a provocative metaphor that led us to examine how our experiences of power, privilege, and inclusion inform our perception of how big the table is, how it is set, who gets to sit at it, and how they are to behave. We were encouraged to notice individual, group, and societal patterns and tensions around race, class, gender identity, and sexual orientation – and beyond.

The planning committee was determined that we would do more than discuss power, privilege, and inclusion; awareness of these dynamics would inform the process of creating an expanded and more inclusive Gathering. Our community was blessed by the extensive outreach done by the planning committee, which brought more children, young adults, people of color, allies, teenagers, racial justice workers, and non-Quakers to our Gathering, almost doubling our attendance over last year.

Spirit invites everyone to come to the Table of the Beloved Community. We are asked to participate as our authentic selves, with our wounds, and gifts, and imperfections. We were fed and challenged by the Spirit and each other as we wrestled with the reality that there are those who do not feel invited or feel they cannot bring their whole selves to the table. Many of us have had the experience in our religions of origin that to acknowledge our sexuality or gender identity would sever our relationship with the Spirit. We have found the opposite is true: that accepting and expressing our true selves only serves to strengthen our connection with the Divine.

We are determined to continue the struggle, knowing that we will be challenged by what it will take to be faithful to our vision of radical inclusion. As we continue our commitment to realize what radical love demands of us, we ask that you hold us in the Light.

On behalf of Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Concerns,
Wendy Sanford and Ted Heck, co-clerks

Monday, March 4, 2013

Friends (Quakers) for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns Endorses Friend of the Court Briefs in Two Supreme Court Cases -- Announcement

[UPDATE: Briefs are available to read here.] 

Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns (FLGBTQC) has signed friend of the court briefs filed filed by law firm Kramer Levin on behalf of a range of religious organizations in two cases before the US Supreme Court this term.

From the announcement by Kramer Levin:

Kramer Levin has filed a pair of amicus briefs on behalf of a broad-based coalition of religious organizations in the historic LGBT rights cases now pending in the U.S Supreme Court...

Confronting and rebutting arguments by religious supporters of DOMA and Proposition 8 purporting to state a uniform religious position on marriage, the briefs document the growing range of religious traditions that respect the dignity of lesbian and gay people and their families; solemnize or otherwise honor their relationships; and support civil marriage equality. And stressing the distinction between religious and civil marriage, the briefs make clear that respecting the marriage rights of same-sex couples will not impinge upon religious beliefs, practices, or operations, but rather will prevent one set of religious beliefs from being imposed through civil law.

The entire announcement is well worth reading.  

From the briefs:

Amicus curiae
Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns (“FLGBTQC”) is a faith community within the Religious Society of Friends. FLGBTQC deeply honors, affirms, and upholds that of God in all people. 

(Please note, not all the briefs filed in these cases have been uploaded to all the tracking websites yet.)

Please see related post "Friends (Quakers) for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns Endorses Friend of the Court Briefs in Two Supreme Court Cases -- Details" at  

Friends (Quakers) for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns Endorses Friend of the Court Briefs in Two US Supreme Court Cases -- Details

[UPDATE: Briefs are available to read here.]

I recently attended the Mid-Winter Gathering of Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns (FLGBTQC).

During our first Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business, one of our co-clerks brought a two-fold request to us from the law firm Kramer Levin, regarding friend of the court (amicus) briefs they were preparing to file in two civil same-sex marriage cases:

  • One, could we provide them with information on any policies from the Quaker equivalents of, for example, dioceses, supporting equal marriage for same-sex couples?
  • Two, would we endorse the briefs (become a signatory to the friend of the court briefs), with the understanding that they were not sure that, if we said yes, they would be able to use our name, that our name might not appear after all?

I agreed to serve on the committee looking at both these issues and bringing a recommendation back to Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business.

Co-Clerk had, I believe, already explained about Quakers' lack of dioceses, and so we set about finding information on the Yearly Meeting level -- much of which FLGBTQC already has compiled in our Collection of Marriage Minutes. Without disclosing why, I also posted electronic requests for information from other Yearly Meetings, to which a number of Friends who were not at Mid-Winter Gathering responded with resources.

When our committee met, several of us sat down to work our way through the draft brief to make sure we understood it before making a recommendation. Thankfully, it was very readable.

It was also, simply, a pleasure to read. The authors went through through many of the arguments set forth in briefs already filed in the cases in opposition to same-sex civil marriage, and just demolished them, simply and clearly, without ever being insulting; I was impressed.

You can read an outline of these arguments in this announcement, and you can read the originals of the briefs here and here. I highly recommend doing both -- as I said, the briefs are very readable -- but do read at least the announcement.

(It turns out I kept sending many people at the committee table into gales of laughter by blurting out, "Oh my gosh! This is brilliant!" over and over while I was reading.)

The law firm had also clearly done some good background research on Friends; we had a few factual corrections we asked them to make, but by and large they "got it right."

We took a summary and a recommendation for endorsement to Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business, where it was approved.

However, no matter how excited or happy I was, or how brilliant the draft brief, I couldn't talk about it, because until the brief was filed, it was client confidential.

Kramer Levin filed the briefs Thursday, 28 February, 2013 (yesterday)!

Here's Kramer Levin's announcement:

  • Kramer Levin Files Briefs in Historic Supreme Court LGBT Rights Cases

I highly recommend reading the announcement itself for a nice summary of the briefs' arguments.

I was also struck very much at the time by the parallels to the arguments of Friends in Britain regarding same-sex marriage, particularly General Meeting for Scotland's response in November of 2011 to the Scottish Government's Consultation on same-sex marriage. General Meeting for Scotland's statement is here; Britain Yearly Meeting's statements on same-sex marriage in general are here.

  • The brief for Hollingsworth v Perry (the CA Prop 8 case)
  • The brief for US v Windsor (the DOMA case from NY State)

There are so many reasons I'm excited about these two briefs, but here are a few:
  1. I had a very small but direct impact on some of the content of the brief. (I mean, holy shit.)
  2. It's a bunch of religious groups saying not only do DOMA and Prop 8 infringe on our religious freedom, but marriage equality does not infringe on any other religious groups' religious freedom, in spite of all their arguments.
  3. It demolishes all those arguments just brilliantly.
  4. A religious group I'm part of is a signatory / amicus curiae.

More briefs

If you'd like an amazing experience, grab a hankie and do a news search in your favorite search engine for "marriage briefs" or "DOMA briefs."

You will find reports of briefs supporting same-sex marriage from a huge array of groups and individuals -- religious groups, employers, unions, NFL players, advocacy groups, US states, doctors and psychologists, the Department of Justice, Democrats, Republicans, and more.

That's just not something I ever thought I'd see in my lifetime.

Following the cases

Here are a couple of places to follow the cases:
(Please note they're still catching up on linking all the briefs on all of these pages.)

Related announcement

Please see related post "Friends (Quakers) for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns Endorses Friend of the Court Briefs in Two Supreme Court Cases -- Announcement" at